30 Movies in 30 Days: The Incredibles

Had I seen it before: Yes! Another one of these one-of-my-favorites-as-a-kid-but-haven’t-really-watched-it-since movies.

What IMDb says: A family of undercover superheroes, while trying to live the quiet suburban life, are forced into action to save the world.

Requirements fulfilled: 

– No new requirements fulfilled

Why I picked it: I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but there’s a sequel to this movie in theaters right now. I’m hopefully seeing it tomorrow so it seemed natural to re-watch the first one.

What I liked about it: The Incredibles is the sort of concept that makes other writers say “UGH. Why didn’t I think of that?” A lot of movies are about families. A lot of movies are about superheroes. You would think a movie about a family of superheroes would’ve been made long before 2004, and maybe there is one that I’m unaware of or forgetting about. It’s just one of those ideas that seems so obvious while still also maintaining originality.

That’s the real strongpoint of The Incredibles. It masters the Paradox of Originality. What do I mean by that? I mean that everyone pretends they like original movies, but yet at the same time we all go into movies with certain expectations, and those expectations are always based on other movies. We want superhero movies to feel like our other favorite superhero movies, and I think The Incredibles does. Yet we also don’t want to feel like we’re wasting two hours on a movie we’ve already seen, and I would say The Incredibles is fresh enough that we avoid that fate as well. It’s original and unoriginal in all the best ways.

The Parr family/Incredibles are written in such a way that all are “the good guys” yet there’s also plenty of room for internal conflict between them. We have experienced, seasoned superheroes alongside novices; We have superheroes who love being superheroes alongside those that just wish they were normal; Other superhero ensemble movies have explored dynamics like this before but the fact that the Incredibles are a literal family adds a whole new dimension to that. There’s this sense of unconditional love, protectiveness, and loyalty that we don’t get between Tony Stark and Peter Parker.

I also didn’t appreciate this when I was younger, but the character arc of Syndrome is actually a lot more interesting than a lot of villains in these types of movies. One of my common complaints with superhero films, and arguably action films in general, is that the villains don’t have proper motivations. They’re evil, they like doing evil things, they want power. We’re just supposed to accept that at face value.

In The Incredibles our villain wanted to be a superhero, but was born without powers. In his quest to become a hero anyway, he’s decided to create a robot that only he can destroy. Like our protagonists, our antagonist has a clearly defined goal (wanting to be a hero), clearly defined obstacles (not having powers), and clearly defined plan to reach that goal in spite of those obstacles (engineering various technologies to fake superpowers, as well as creating conflicts to save the world from.) I’m honestly blanking on any villain in any superhero movie that I find as interesting as Syndrome.

What I didn’t like about it: I didn’t notice this when I was younger, but the Incredibles never actually get the go ahead to go on world-saving missions again but it’s heavily implied that they do. Maybe The Incredibles 2 will explore more of this. But for now I can’t help but think “ok, but what’s preventing them from just getting re-located by the government again and again if they’re going on all these missions.”

I also must say that the movie didn’t actually hold my attention this time around the way I remember it did when I was younger. Maybe I was just too hungry to focus, maybe I’ve seen it too many times, I don’t know. But there came a point around halfway through where I found my mind wandering and not terribly interested in what exactly was happening on screen.

Will I watch it again: Yes. Especially if I have kids.

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